Review: Belligerent Beta (Pack Partners #2) by Poppy Dennison

Standard

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Belligerent Beta coverBeta Dan Keller always assumed he would take over the pack as Alpha if anything should happen to their leader.  But when the dead Alpha’s son chooses a human to become Alpha and lead their pack, Dan wasn’t sure of his place in the pack or his position.  With ex cop Lex Tompkins as Alpha and new pack members, there is a lot of adjusting to do by all. One of the youngest members is also one who is having the most problems.  Nathan Ross, the Omega of the pack, has a troubled past that has not only made him a target to other wolves but left him unable to shift as well.

When Lex suggests to Dan that he needs to get more involved with pack members, become a true beta, Dan never anticipated that the one who needed him the most would be Nathan.  But a broken down car and a offered ride gives Dan a chance to get to know Nathan and to his surprise he finds he likes the shy man hiding behind poor posture and long bangs.  When trouble arrives in pack territory and local animals turn up dead, all clues points to Nathan as the culprit.

Will Nathan and Dan’s friendship and burgeoning romance be lost just as its getting started or will the belligerent beta find his true strength in time to protect a man he wants for his own?

This is such a cute series.  Accidental Alpha, the first story, revolved around an ex cop Lex Tompkins who gets bitten by a neighbor’s toddler which turned him into a shifter and pack Alpha.  The kid was/is adorable and the situation Lex found himself in was funny with a few serious elements attached.  Belligerent Beta is a perfect title for Dan Keller who is still smarting at being passed over for Alpha and by a child no less.  Dan is aloof, intimidating, and in a quandary over his role in the pack.   The story picks up with the pack and Lex still adjusting  to the new order and Lex’s new powers.  Nathan, a young Omega wolf, in jeopardy in Accidental Alpha remains troubled here for an unknown yet hinted at reason.

Nathan’s character is a little shaky here.  His history is one he only told to the last Alpha with hints of abuse or something equally horrific.  He is naive or ignorant about shifter culture.  And his inability to shift has caused him to withdraw even further into himself.  I expected more from Nathan’s history than is revealed here.  Either the reader still doesn’t have the whole story on Nathan or some of the implications were too overwrought,  Either way I felt his character could have used some additional information or substance.  Did that keep me from liking Nathan?  Absolutely not.  As someone in need of support and compassion, Nathan hits all the right buttons in order to connect with him.  Who did I love?  Well, that would be Dan.  Big, gruff, isolated Dan.   Dan is a character that you like the more he opens up and that happens as gradually as it can over 97 pages. And when Dan finally starts to get to know and get closer to Nathan its as cute as a puppy pile.  That’s the best part of this story. It’s heartwarming and so sweet.

If you are looking for drama or angst here, you won’t find it.  That element is almost completely missing from this story.  Any hints of turmoil or large crisis such as we saw in the first story are just so much smoke or a quick reference to Lex’s continued adjustment to his new shifter status.  This is a sweet, adorable romance..  The couple is endearing and they make a perfect pair.  When you are finished,  I think you will find you were happy you spent more time with this pack and their latest mate pairing.  Poppy Dennison continues to flesh out her portrait of this pack and their members with each new story.  I’m not sure who is next up in the series, but I can’t wait to find out.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  I would call that model a wonderful bear but this is about wolves after all.

Buy Links:    Wilde City Press          Amazon                 ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 97 pages
Published May 14th 2014 by Wilde City Press
original titleBelligerent Beta
ISBN139781925031008
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.wildecity.com/books/gay-romance/belligerent-beta/#.U2hU16JQ7sc
seriesPack Partners #2

Pack Partners Series:

Accidental Alpha  (Pack Partners #1)
Belligerent Beta (Pack Partners #2)

September 2013 Summary of Reviews

Standard

September and Fall

September 2013 Book Review Summary

What a wonderful month it was for books and reviews!  Most of the books I read fell into the 5 and 4 star category, a few into the  3 star and none below that.  Series predominated the ratings this time.  Most notably the series offerings from the Pulp Friction authors. There 3d-person-sit-pile-books-reading-book-26141531were new books in well established series such as Katey Hawthorne’s Superpowered Love series as well as followup stories and new series  from such talented authors such as Kendall McKenna (The Tameness of the Wolf series) and Aleksandr Voinov (Memory of Scorpions series).

Other new series includes Poppy Dennison’s Pack Partners , Cat Grant’s Bannon’s Gym) and Harper Kingsley’s Heroes and Villains series too.  My cup (and yours) runneth over with series, all promising more great stories featuring characters we have come to love. And believe it or not, October is starting the same way!  What a fall!

So grab a pen or notebook and jot down those books and authors you may have missed the first time around.  I have linked my review to each one listed.  Happy Reading!

5 Star Rating:

Crucify (Triple Threat #4) by L.E. Harner
Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by L.E. Harner
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne (supernatural)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2) by L.E. Harner (contemporary)
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)
Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Accidental Alpha (Pack Partners #1) by Poppy Dennison (4.5 stars)(supernatural)
Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1) by Cat Grant (4.5 stars)(contemporary)
Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon (4 stars) (fantasy)
City Knight (City Knight #1) by T.A. Webb (4 stars out of 5)(contemporary fiction)
Heroes and Villains (Heroes and Villains #1) by Harper Kingsley (4 stars)(supernatural)
Sonata by A.F. Henley (4.5 stars out of 5)(contemporary fiction)
Summer Lovin’ Anthology (4.75 stars out of 5) (contemporary)
The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft (4 stars)(historical)
Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1) by L.E. Harner (4.5 stars)(contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz (3.75 stars)(historical)
Roughstock: Blind Ride, Season One by BA Tortuga (3 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating: none

1 to 1.75 Star Rating: none

Review: Accidental Alpha (Pack Partners, #1) by Poppy Dennison

Standard

Book Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Accidental Alpha coverOne year ago police officer Lex Tompkins was stabbed while on the job.  The severity of the wounds and the long recovery time meant disability and retirement for Lex as he could no longer physically do his job.  Bitter, Lex withdraws from everyone he knows, buying seven acres in the middle of nowhere to hide in and retreat from society.  But almost from the beginning his plans go awry. Lex has a neighbor when his real estate agent promised him none.  And that neighbor, Spencer Robinson, always seems to have a ton of people at his house and a party going on.  Plus the guy isn’t even Lex’s type.

When a toddler shows up alone in Lex’s front yard, he knows that there is only one place he could have come from. Lex picks the kid up and starts to head across the street when the toddler bites the heck out of his neck.  Lex passes out and the next moment wakes up in Spencer’s house as the new Alpha werewolf of a small and dysfunctional pack of werewolves.

Faced with new responsibilities that he doesn’t want, Lex also finds himself attracted to Spencer, someone he never looked twice at before.  What’s a bitter excop to do when Fate rearranges his life in ways he never imagined?

Poppy Dennison became a go to author of mine when I started reading her Triad series (now at book four). So when I saw that she had a new shifter story out, I knew I had to have it.  Accidental Alpha, the first in the Pack Partners series, starts with a hysterical premise, what happens when a toddler accidentally turns a person into a werewolf? I love it when an author gives me a new twist on a popular genre and that’s exactly what Dennison has delivered here.

Dennison has created a unique pack structure for her werewolf story which includes the toddler’s position within it and the reason why he bit Lex in the first place.  This is a small and somewhat dysfunctional pack with a few shifters hanging at the outskirts of the core group that is not getting along without leadership.  Into this interesting group dynamics, Dennison thrusts her disabled alpha cop, Lex Tompkins.  I really liked his character, he comes across as a hard core cop who loved his job.  And the type of personality that it takes to be a cop is exactly the type of leadership needed in an Alpha.  I liked the manner in which Dennison  connects those dots not only for the reader  but for Lex as well.  Lex is a man in need of a job that requires him to police and take care of people and that is exactly what he gets again.

This pack is made up of some very damaged, sad, and angry shifters. Each comes with their own set of challenges that Lex must first decipher and then deal with.  That includes his very strong attraction to Spencer which is clearly a werewolf thing Lex needs to get figure out immediately before his own behavior gets out of control.  I liked the pack that the author has created for this story.  There’s the toddler, Aiden, who is quite adorable.  His mother Mia, two special special favorites of mine Ruby and Nathan, Justin and more.  And then there is Spencer, the neighbor and perhaps potential mate.  I connected with the character of Spencer as well.  Quiet and unassuming, he has a reserve to him that works when the rest of the pack is spiraling out of control.  Its a nice yin and yang  sort of relationship that will evolve with the story and the series.  It’s also a lovely change from the wham bam mate thing that overwhelms characterization and plot that I so often read in shifter stories. Poppy Dennsion sets out a structure for not only the pack but for acquiring mates as well.

The ending of Accidental Alpha sees Lex, Spencer and the rest slowly adjusting to each other and the change in pack dynamics.   It’s a new start for them all and an appropriate place to end the first book in the series.  Poppy Dennison had laid her ground work while still leaving room to flesh out the personalities and back history of the individual pack members.  I also expect to learn more about Lex as well.   Accidental Alpha leaves me wanting more of the Pack Partners series and that’s exactly what it should do.  Great job, Poppy Dennison.  I can’t wait to see what will happen next.  Please don’t make us wait too long.

Cover Art © 2013 Wilde City Press Photo by Kent Taylor, courtesy http://www.ragingstallion.com  What a perfect cover!  That’s Lex exactly.

Book Details:

ebook, 56 pages
Published September 11th 2013 by Wilde City Press

When a Name Hurts And the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

Sport teams with Indian namesIts football season!  And like the changing color of the leaves its time for a certain topic to pop up again for discussion in the Washington DC Metro area.  Should the Redskins change their name? For years the answer was a resounding no from all Redskin fans and non fans alike.  But now the tide is changing….finally.  And more and more people as well as institutions are calling on the Washington Redskin organization and Dan Snyder to change the name of the team.

Sports Illustrated’s ‘MMQB’ site apparently won’t use the Redskins name any more.  Nor will  Slate Magazine (owned by The Washington Post Company), the online publication  USA Today’s Christine BrennanGrantland. They join the Piscataway and Oneida Nations, Mike Wise of The Washington Post, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, 12 members of Congress andKKK cartoon about the Redskins name a growing number of the nation’s population who find using a racial slur as a team name not only hurtful but repulsive.

Those old and racially insensitive rejoinders that hold that it’s an honor for Native Americans to be used as a title for a sports team and that “its not meant to be a slur” are not listening to the very people the name is denigrating.  They are not listening to the fans who agree or the many who have written and implored Dan Snyder to do the right thing and change the name.  No, it appears the all mighty buck is in charge as well as Dan Snyder.

The NFL and Dan Snyder say it would cost the team (meaning both of them) millions, maybe tens of millions in revenue to change the name.  Loss of copyright, loss of the proceeds in sales of Redskin memorabilia, and anything else they can imprint the name and logo on.  Plus in their eyes, other teams have names that are similar and they haven’t changed them.  What? Are they 5 years old?  Thats normally the age that uses that sort of excuse. I know they are talking about the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks, the Golden State Warriors and many, many more.  And guess what, those teams need to change their names too.

screaming football fanPicture for a minute all those mascots dressed as Native Americans, those cartoon logos that scream of another era, and the painted, feathered, tomahawk chopping fans that attend each game and appear on so many sports screens, sports extras shows and vids.  I am even talking about our beloved elderly Chief Zee, who first attended his first Washington game in 1978 and has been a semi official mascot ever since.   Now lets switch over and try to see it from the point of view of a Native American.  You  know, those indigenous peoples whose land we took, tribes we slaughtered, language and cultures we suppressed and who are still trying in every court in the nation to regain not only their heritage but the respect and recognition that should have always been theirs.  Pretty ugly, isn’t it.  Downright shameful, no matter how you look at it.

Hard to believe we are still arguing about this.  How do you justify the pain and hurt that is caused when a slur is treated as something acceptable?  InIndian Disrespected the past, it was the N word.  Now everyone knows that it is never acceptable to use or suffer the consequences (loss of sponsors, jobs, income, see Paula Dean and others).   The F word is rapidly going the same way, a fact that is long overdue as is LGBTQ rights.  The R word is just as offensive, although some people are still hiding in the past.  Just on the fact alone that Native Americans find this term, this word, not only racially offensive but disparaging and derogatory should make it (and other similar names) disappear from sports teams everywhere.  And although its origin and usage is in dispute*, the fact that most people now perceive it to be a racial slur should make its usage taboo.

What is it going to take for these owners and teams to make a change?  A Supreme Court decision?  Considering the amount of lawsuits in play that could happen.  But I would like to think it will be because the people spoke with their wallets.  So, NFL, MLB, NHL, the Redskins and Dan Snyder, you are standing your ground and won’t switch?  OK, then we won’t pay to go to your games.  We won’t pay to watch your games on Pay For View.  We won’t buy tickets, or team memorabilia.   Those expensive team logo clothes? Nuh uh. Those beer mugs and team flags for the cars?  Pass on them too.

This isn’t about RGIII.  I really hope his knee is fine and his career is long.  It’s not about Mike Shanahan and his team.  They are OK too.  Even that troll (in my opinion) of an owner, no it is about him, no question.  It’s about doing the right thing, no matter the cost.  So that’s why I will be waiting until the The Washington Whitiesname is changed to support a Washington team.  It could be the Washington Lobbyists or the Washington Scribes.  The Washington Lawmakers or the Washington Federals.  I kind of like that last one, it has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?  Certainly the Washington Capitals and the Washington Nationals didn’t seem to have a problem finding an appropriate name.  And if you want to look to a role model, look no further than to the departed and deeply missed Abe Pollin who decided he couldn’t live with owning a team named the Bullets with kids and adults dying every year by the gun.  So he renamed them the Wizards and went forward without missing a step, now that’s a responsible owner.

So I am sticking to the Washington Caps, and the Nats and maybe even the Ravens.  Who knows?  The only thing for certain, is that I won’t be rooting for a certain Washington football team.  No more red and gold for me.  They probably don’t care.  I am only a small voice but the number is growing.  Oh, to hear a multitude sing……

*Language Log: The Origin of RedskinAre You Ready For Some Controversy? The History Of ‘Redskin …

Team Caps with offensive names

Now for the  week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Sept 16:     Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by L.E. Harner

Tuesday, Sept. 17:    The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft

Wed., Sept. 18:          Superpowered Love: Reentry Burn by Katey Hawthorne

Thurs., Sept. 19:         Black Dog by Cat Grant

Friday, Sept. 20:         Crucify by L.E. Harner

Sat., Sept. 21:              Accidental Alpha by Poppy Dennison

Review: Creature Feature by Poppy Dennison and Mary Calmes

Standard

Creature Feature coverRating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Diagnosis Wolf by Poppy Dennison  

Rating: 4 stars

Andrew Hughes life sucks and its all due to his twin brother.  For as long as Andrew can remember his twin has caused problems for everyone, especially Andrew.  His brother has gambled, lied, then stolen Andrew’s identity and savings. This has left  Andrew miles deep in debt, with an unsalvagable credit rating, and scrambling to rebuild his life and move forward.  Andrew can’t afford to be choosy, so when his temp agency offers him a job with a client that has run off all other nurses, he takes it for the money he can’t afford to turn down.

His client is Caleb DiMartino and no one will let him see his chart or tell Andrew what illness his new client has.  Caleb comes with armed body guards, a mansion and an intimidating father.  But the pale unconscious patient pulls Andrew in and Andrew wants to help him despite the mystery that surrounds him.  But the truth behind Caleb’s  illness will bring Andrew’s brother back into his life and pose a threat to Andrew and Caleb that neither expects.

Diagnosis Wolf spells out  the problem in the title and wolf shifters is something that Poppy Dennison is very familiar with.  She has her own take on wolf shifters and does a great job in creating a universe for them and Andrew.  Andrew is a lovely, sympathetic character whose twin brother has made his life miserable their entire lives.  I liked that Andrew had reached a point with his twin where he no longer enabled his twin’s problems (that his brother stole his identity and savings helped push Andrew over the edge).  I loved that Andrew was a nurse and his empathic caring nature made it plausible that he would stay with Caleb, even as the situation escalated past complicated and into scary.

I had some issues with the villain of the piece because I kept wondering how it was that the rest of the pack had not figured it out. And maybe a little more exposition would have been nice with respect to Andrew’s brother, Danny and his future at the end.  But those issues aside, I loved Poppy’s wolf shifter culture, especially when it came down to the mate bite and the politics surrounding it.  So nicely done and the complexities surrounding the status of the bite made the “aha” moment more angst and adrenaline filled.  It also made the slow build to a permanent relationship between Caleb and Andrew extremely satisfying at the end.  All in all, a really lovely story.

Landslide by Mary Calmes

Rating 4.5 stars

Courier Frank Corrigan is injured again and while he is waiting for his wounds to heal, he gets a call from his sister, Lindsey.  Lindsey is in trouble as usual, but this time her impetuousness has lead her to  get bitten by a werewolf who just so happens NOT to be her fiance.  And the wedding is this week and she doesn’t know what to do and needs her big brother now.  Frank feels certain that his boss, the demon Cael Berith has the solution to his sister’s problems.  But Frank is also  certain that there will be a price to be paid for Cael’s assistance.  Cael told Frank that Frank was Cael’s mate. That was three years ago and Cael’s patience is running out.  With a love hungry demon on one side and a werewolf sister to be on the other, what will Frank do to save the situation and perhaps his love life in the bargain?

I will admit this was my favorite story of the two.  It was perfect Mary Calmes in every way from the characters involved to the plot.  First let’s take a look at the characters.  Paranormal courier Frank Corrigan is tall, a former Marine who just so happens to be a mihr.  A mihr is a mutant human who has all the typical human frailties except that he cannot be influenced by any otherworldly magic or glamour or tricks.  And in the universe Mary Calmes has created for Landslide, this makes Frank the perfect go between the paranormal beings.  It seems that wolf shifters, vampires, ghouls, demons and what have you exist openly in human society.  All must register with Homeland Security and various rules and regulations apply to their movement and existence within human societies.  Take everything currently going on with border regulations and green cards, illegal aliens and extrapolate that  times ten and you begin to get the picture that Calmes is so vividly painting for us.

Into this world, we meet Frank, a bundle of complexities.  A former Marine with excellent combat skills, he also has huge self image issues and an abusive family in the background that has made him doubt his  worth and attractiveness.  His friends are a odd group of non humans, and his sister is his one family member who loves and supports him.  Frank also has a secret that is helping to keep the one person he wants at a distance.  And that would be his current boss who also claims Frank is his mate.

Incubus demon Cael Berith is 1,000 years old and only now has he found his mate in Frank Corrigan.  But misunderstandings and Frank’s insecurities have kept them apart for three years and a demon can only take so much frustration.  Cael is such a mouthwatering character.  He has so many facets to his personality.  Scary demon, check.  Romantic suitor? Check. Patience personified? Check and check.  Mary Calmes makes us see Cael in all of his dimensions and still gives us a character to fall in love with.  And when you add him to the soft, insecure and honorable Frank Corrigan, well then, just sit back and watch the sparks fly.

Typical of a Mary Calmes story we also are given  memorable secondary characters too from the  werewolf called Charming to Sheriff Gordy Roller.  All perfectly drawn with interesting layers of their own.  As the ending neared, I found myself wanting to know more about Lindsey’s future and other peripheral characters.  And I wanted  more of what life had in store for Frank and Cael.

And that is almost always the issue with these anthologies or collections.  If the plots are well done and the characters engaging, then when I reach the end I find myself wishing for more.  But Creature Feature has plenty to offer from Poppy Dennison and Mary Calmes in terms of great stories and characters that will stay with you.  Pick up some popcorn and settle in for an afternoon double  feature.  You are going to love it.

Cover Art by Paul Richmond  just takes you back to the theatre and the Saturday matinees with the double features and creatures galore.  Just perfect.

Missing Spring, Rejuvenation, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

Sigh.  The Vernal Equinox has come and gone, the calendar proclaims its spring without refute for all who look at it but the weather will not cooperate!  One day of nice weather is quickly followed by a week of sullen skies, cold winds, and the threat of snow or sleet.  And while we have been truly lucky here in the DC metropolitan area in that all the snow and ice have gone around us, others like my daughter in Gainesville received over a foot of the white stuff.

To add insult to injury, I just received my first order of plants from a catalog nursery and each morning as I get my coffee, I see them lined up on the windowsill looking out over the gardens where they will live if this weather ever changes.  I swear I can hear them sigh along with me as we gaze over ground as hard as concrete and a bird bath filled with ice crusted water.

All the squirrels and birds wait for me to fill the feeders each day as they are emptying them as quick as I top them off.  I am sure they too are wondering if the weather will ever turn clement.   Red-tailed Hawks along with their smaller cousin, the Red-shouldered Hawks are wheeling over head in their aerial courtship displays. The black capped chickadees are inspecting the nesting boxes in the backyard so I know that soon the weather will change for the better and this cold, glum seasonal waiting room will be just a memory.  But at the moment, it just feels as though we are stuck in a pattern that refuses to let us go.

Sometimes that happens in life, whether we recognize it at the time or not.  What does it take for us to see that we are stuck in a rut? When does routine translate into a holding pattern?  I am not sure of the answer, only that  sometimes, if you are lucky, a change happens to bring about a seasonal changeover in a person’s life and you feel renewed once more.  Old hobbies are picked back up, or new interests in life are discovered. Much like the small green sprouts I see trying diligently trying to emerge from the ground in my gardens, your outlook on life changes and things take on a bright, new patina. Other aspects of your life that previously seemed dull and uninteresting are rewarded with a double take as they too reveal a different side of themselves.

I love spring and the changing seasons.  It doesn’t matter whether it is the spring slowly occurring outside my window or the one happening deep inside.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate winter too for one is necessary for the other to be truly glorious and appreciated.  The plants have needed their rest, some seeds requiring the cold in order to germinate in the spring, and a winter chill will keep some insect populations under control.  A cold winter’s night can make the moon and stars glow with a beauty found only during the winter months.  But oh, how wonderful the first warm, moisture laden air of spring!  It smells of rejuvenation, of new life, and I can’t wait to throw open my window and feel its breath on my face again.

It’s coming and soon.  I just need to be patient, along with my plants on the windowsill.  Sometimes, that is the hardest thing to do.

Here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, March 25:          Covet Thy Neighbor by L.A. Witt

Tuesday, March 26:          Storm Season by Nessa L. Warin

Wed., March 27:               Creature Feature by Poppy Dennison, Mary  Calmes

Thursday, March 28:       Diversion by Eden Winters

Friday, March 29:             The Mayfield Speakeasy by LA Witt

Saturday, March 30:        Collusion by Eden Winters

Hurricane Sandy Relief Still Needed, Books with a Bittersweet tag and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

So on top of Hurricane Sandy, the nor’Easter hit the very same areas with another punch.  So I am putting out there once more the name of organizations providing assistance to those in need due to Hurricane Sandy.  Please help if you are able, even the smallest of amounts add up to someone being able to eat or have warm clothes.

American Red Cross

Ali Forney Center Housing for Homeless GLBT Youth

ASPCA

Humane Society of the United States

Now turning to books, I have some wonderful books for you this week, including the latest from Andrea Speed, Megan Derr, and Marguerite Labbe.  In particular, I wanted to talk about books labeled bittersweet.  I think most people see that tag and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction and miss out on some marvelous books.  Two in particular come to mind.  One is Rodney Ross’ The Cool Park of His Pillow.  This is absolutely one of my top books for 2012.  It does contains sadness and pain as it charts one man’s recovery from the death of his long term partner. But there is also so much joy, humor and love that it would be shameful to label it bittersweet as it is so much more than that limiting tag.  I feel the same way about Ghost in the Wind, the latest from Marguerite Labbe.  This story has a definite supernatural bent to it as it concerns the death of a man’s long term partner but in this case the man is murdered and his ghost returns to help his partner move on as well as solve a mystery.  Here the grief is palpable, the murder shocking and the suspense agonizing.  Dreamspinner Press calls it a Bittersweet Dream. Sigh.  I can almost hear the rejections on the wind.  Again, definitely not so.  Don’t miss this wonderful book either.  It’s painful, joyous, suspenseful, and full of boundless love.  I have the latest in the Infected series (darn you, Andrea Speed!!!) and a book from KA Mitchell that is not receiving the attention I think it is due.   So fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a wild ride of a week:

Monday:                       Chaos (Lost Gods #5) by Megan Derr

Tuesday:                       Ghost in the Wind by Marguerite Labbe

Wednesday:                 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne and Marie Sexton

Thursday:                     But My Boyfriend Is by KA Mitchell

Friday:                          Splintered Lies by Diane Adams and RJ Scott

Saturday:                      Bloggers Choice

So that’s the week unless something changes.  Happy reading!

The Week Ahead and a Great Recipe for Stuffed Cabbage!

Standard

What an outstanding day here in Maryland!  Sky is blue, air is cool and crisp,  The day will be perfect for turning off the overworked air conditioners and opening the windows.  Payment indeed for the 7 tornados and torrents of rain that hit us on Friday.  Yes, that was 7 tornados touching down all over from Frederick, MD to Northern VA.  What is going on with our weather?   But today is a gift I am going to take advantage of and head outside to read and take pictures of the garden.

Let’s look at what is coming up this week.  Sorry all, things came up that pushed back my next installment of VGB.  It will be posted at the end of this week.  Last week was a banner week with wonderful books from great authors.  For those who missed it, Saturday’s substitution was Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison. New author, first book in a new series. Loved it! This week will be some new authors for me as well as a continuation of a series I just love:

Monday:                Still Waters, Sanctuary #4 by RJ Scott

Tuesday:                Seizing It by Chris T Kat

Wednesday:          Murder at The Rocking R by Catt Ford

Thursday:              Five Star Review by Lara R Brukz

Friday:                   One Small Thing by  Piper Vaughn and MJ O’Shea

Saturday:               New Vocabulary Gone Bad!

Now for a great recipe that can be used as a main course or secondary dish.  I just love this one. It came from Laura Calder again.  Can’t go wrong  with her recipes or her quirky show French Cooking At Home.  Great taste and the presentation is so pretty! And it is easy to make.  What’s not to like?

Stuffed Cabbage:

Ingredients:

Kosher salt
1 medium or 2 small savoy cabbages (about 1.5 pounds)
3 ounces white bread
About 1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 pound trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A few handfuls fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon quatre-epices, more to taste, recipe below
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 pound pork sausage meat – I like to use sweet Italian

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt it generously.

Core the cabbage. Gently peel away the leaves to expose the heart (by heart, I mean the ball of more yellowish leaves at the center which are too tightly packed to bother prying apart). Cut out that core of inner-most leaves and shred to add to the stuffing. Cut the thick ribs out of the remaining leaves (they will look like you’ve stolen a sliver from a pie). Set aside.

Blanch the cabbage leaves for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, and refresh under ice-cold water. Drain and pat dry with a towel.

Break the bread into crumbs in a bowl, pour over the milk and set aside to soften. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the onion and shallot until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. Cook another 5 minutes. Add the bread and cook until the milk has evaporated. Stir through the quatre-epices and season generously with salt and pepper. Add this mixture to the sausage meat in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Make a small ball and fry it in the frying pan. Taste it to check the seasonings. Adjust as needed.

Lay a tea towel on the counter with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin large enough to wrap the cabbage in. You’re going to reconstruct the cabbage, but with layers of stuffing between the leaves. So, first lay down the large outer leaves, in a circle, slightly overlapping with the prettiest side out. Spread over a layer of stuffing. Lay over another layer of leaves and repeat the action. Continue until you have run out of leaves. Pull up the edges of the cheesecloth, like a bag, and twist, as if making the head of a puppet, to shape the cabbage into a round loaf shape. Tie a string around the beard of cheesecloth where it meets the cabbage ball, to secure the package. The cabbage can be prepared to this stage in advance, refrigerated and then cooked before serving.

To cook: Steam the cabbage over water or good chicken stock (about 2 cups) for 45 minutes. The flavor from the stuffed cabbage will drip into the water or stock and give it the most amazing flavor. When the cabbage is done, boil down the cooking juices and serve a spoonful around each wedge of cabbage in a soup bowl.

Quatre Epices or Four Spices (a common French spice)

1 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns ground
2 tsp whole cloves ground up
2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger

Review of Mind Magic by Poppy Dennison

Standard

Rating:      4.5 stars

When Simon Osbourne starts hearing the cries of children begging for help in his head, he tries to ignore them.  It’s against the rule he is governed by to interfere as he is an apprentice mage and the children in danger are werecubs. But as the cries continue, he feels the children weakening and decides to act.  Under the darkness of night, Simon steals onto the grounds of a house in the woods, and finds five were children being drained by a demon.  Using the magic tricks he has learned as an apprentice, Simon frees the children and drives them back to the Wolf pack compound outside of town.

Grey Townsend, alpha of the High Moon Pack, has been going crazy ever since his son, Garon and four other children were stolen from the compound.  For two days, the pack has searched but all traces of the cubs are gone, along with hearing their mind speak.  When a strange mage brings the children home, Gray owes Simon his gratitude and trust, not something the weres give to the Others.  Little is known about the Others except that the groups stay away from each others societies, segregated by rules and laws arcane in nature.  Then Simon saves Garon from a demon attack for the second time, and Gray admits they need Simon to help solve the mysteries before them.  Simon loves the family life he sees in the pack and is attracted to the handsome Alpha, Gray.  With the pack and their cubs still in danger, Simon and Gray come together to help find the demon behind the attacks and begin a possible relationship.  But Simon’s actions have repercussions within the Mage Society and he could lose the one thing he has wanted all his life if he continues on this course – the chance to be a full blown mage.

Mind Magic combines so many of my favorite elements in one book.  It has shifters, vampires,  and demons with different takes on all.  In this universe magic is divided up into a triangle.  At the top point is the Head Magic of the mages, another point is Body Magic of the shifters with the final point that of Soul Magic (demons/vampires).  As the author sets the stage in her world, all magical beings have long thought the division between them to be rigid and final. But with Garon demonstrating an aptitude for mind magic as well as body magic, Simon, Gray and the others begin to understand that all is not as they have been told or seems.

Dennison’s alternative world is a wonderfully compelling place that pulls in the reader  completely from the very beginning and doesn’t relinquish its hold even after the story is finished.  I love the notion of the magical divisions and her unique take on all things fantastical extends to shifters and vampires.  Recently I was reading a note on the shifter thread at GoodReads where someone wondered about the difference in body mass between the human and  animal forms that disappears from most shifter fiction.  Dennison addresses that question as her shifters are much larger than the natural wolves, something that doesn’t appear often in shifter fiction.  Her shifters live in a pack in adhering to wolf natural history.  Her vampires and mages get the same attention and neat twists to them, especially her vampire who takes very little blood, only enough to sustain his magic.

The author also excels with her characters, both main and secondary.  Simon Osbourne is kind, gentle, appealing in every way.  Here it is the mages that lead a lonely life, isolated from their families and others which is used to a nice contrast with pack life.  Simon yearns to be a part of a family as his backstory makes plain.  Simon has a love of herbs and plants that his grandfather passed on to him which gives Dennison a chance to go into herbology with lovely results.  I fell in love with Simon quickly just as Gray and the children did.  Definitely not a case of “instant love” as Simon must earn Gray’s trust.  Gray Townsend is a great addition to shifter Alphas out there. He is steady, older, a wonderful father and pack leader.  Slowly Dennison shows us Gray’s history as the story continues with another interesting twist on an Alpha coming of age at 30 to emerge as leader of the pack,  Gray is a family man who takes his responsibilities seriously and still has an open outlook on the world around him.  Of all the characters in the story, it is the mages who remain the most hidebound, strictly adhering to the old ways and narrow outlook on the world around them.  Then there is Goran, Aunt Maggie, and Liam and Cormac, Simon’s “grandfather”. terrific characters, as fully fleshed out as the main characters.

Mind Magic combines some of the most wonderful supernatural elements, tosses it with a good dose of herbology, great characters, and an ongoing mystery to create a story that will continue past Mind Magic. My only quibble is that the end came sooner than I had expected and left me with more questions than were answered. But that makes sense as Mind Magic is the first in a new series called Triad Trilogy.  The next books are Body Magic and Soul Magic.  Poppy Dennison promises that we will be seeing all the wonderful characters we met here again as the series continues.   Great job, great story.  And I have a new author to love.

Cover:  I love the cover by Anne Cain.  That is Gray is every respect.  How I love her artwork.

200 pages in length.  Published by Dreamspinner Press.  Find out more about the author here at her website.

 

Note;  The next edition of Vocabulary Gone Bad will be posted next week instead of today as promised.  Sorry, guys but inspiration hit and I have to add it in somehow!